Lillie Nordman’s mission to make a sustainable Stanford

Stanford Athletes for Change highlights Stanford student-athletes, current and former, who leverage platforms to create social impact. 

Stanford junior Lillie Nordman, the captain of Stanford women’s swimming and diving team, comes from a long line of talented swimmers. Her three older sisters all swam competitively, and her father was a former Division 1 swimmer at the University of Utah. Unsurprisingly, Nordman recalls “loving the water ever since I stepped foot in it.”

When her older sister Lucie Nordman ‘22 M.A. ‘23 committed to Stanford in 2018, Lillie was inspired to follow in her strokes. 

“Lucie was probably my biggest role model growing up. She really opened my eyes in terms of what I could be capable of doing,” Nordman said. “She was one of the big reasons why I wanted to come to Stanford.” 

But beyond the pool, her sister ignited a passion for sustainability throughout her time as an undergraduate. Nordman is now the Co-President of Student-Athletes for Sustainability (SAS), a campus athletic club on a mission to reduce Stanford’s carbon footprint through advocacy, clean-ups and educational programs.

“Lucie really encouraged me to join [SAS], and I’ve always been very passionate about the environment and trying to reduce my carbon footprint,” Nordman said. “I also wanted to foster a community where student athletes could collaborate.”

Growing up in Texas and experiencing worsening climate change firsthand fueled both sisters’ passion for environmental stewardship. When Nordman came to Stanford, she took courses in the Earth Systems major, which raised her concerns about the environment and inspired her to generate action through SAS. 

“One thing that we’re trying to implement is food recovery from Athlete Dining,” Nordman said. “We want to package up all of the food and give it to food shelters. We’re obviously still trying to figure out all the logistics, but we are moving full steam ahead for next year.” 

The project stems from a challenge Nordman observed among student athletes. Many of her fellow student-athletes were insensitive to the waste and unsustainable habits in the dining hall. 

“Getting people to change their behaviors is something that has been a little frustrating for us. [Athlete Dining] has to-go boxes, but we’ll often see athletes sitting inside in the dining hall eating out of a to-go box, and it just makes me so mad because I’m like, ‘why don’t you just use a plate?’” Nordman said. 

In addition to this new initative, SAS will continue efforts like gear drives, clothing swaps and beach clean-ups. Nordman’s work with SAS has broadened her community and perspective on making a difference.

“As athletes, we have such a big spotlight on us, and a lot of people are looking towards us as leaders and to see what we’re doing for our communities,” Nordman said. “I really just wanted to take advantage of that spotlight. Our club has done an Earth Systems 26 class where we bring in speakers every week and we can learn from these great figures in sustainability.”

For Nordman, taking action in the present is of the utmost importance to create a sustainable future.

“If we don’t take action now, we’re going to be in deep trouble,” Nordman said. “Obviously, each individual only has so much power, but I think that any little action makes a difference.”